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Trip Report Tiger bites, elephants and some culture - family visit to Thailand and Bali

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Apologies for any typos or errors - I'm too tied up in work to proofread.

Never in a million years did we think our family of 4 (kids are 6 and 9) would ever vacation in Asia. My family is very picky about food and, to be honest, Asian culture had never been something we were interested in learning about. After trips to Europe, Australia and S. Africa the past few years, however, we were looking for somewhere to go in 2009 that would be fun and exciting. Many thanks to Fodorite cruisinred for suggesting Thailand last year. Just in case we ended up hating Thailand, we decided to include Bali as well since it sounded like a sure winner. It’s funny how things can turn out so much different than you expect…

We relied almost exclusively on this forum for ideas for the trip and you did not disappoint. This is probably the best planned trip I’ve made in terms of where to go, what to do, etc. I probably made 2-3 mistakes and will highlight those along the way.
I’m going to cut to the chase otherwise I’ll never finish. Please feel free to ask questions or send me an email (breevans at hotmail dot com). We’re happy to offer insights/opinions, especially to those who are “typical American families” that are interested in getting a taste of other cultures without giving up certain Western comforts.

June 4-6
RDU / IAD / FRA on United (it got us there)
FRA / BKK on Thai (ok, but no Singapore Air)

Bangkok - June 6
Had Tong’s crew pick us and our 10 bags (yes, 10) up at BKK
Checked in early at the Marriott Resort & Spa, one room on points, one connecting room paid (pre-paid for a little less than $100/night all in). Did not do too much other than venture around the resort and attached mall – the kids did some activity at a store in the mall where you make things out of clay.

First night in Thailand and where do we eat? The Pizza Company! It was actually really good. Yes, we’re pitiful.

Tong called in the evening to say she was not feeling well and Nat would be taking us on our Bangkok tour tomorrow. I had told her when I booked that it would be ok to hand this day off to someone else since I thought we’d be dragging and wanting to keep things short.

Bangkok - June 7
After the Marriott buffet breakfast (free since I seem to live in Marriotts at home),Nat met us at the Marriott pier. We took the Marriott boat, then transferred to the city water bus/shuttle/whatever it’s called (non-touristy one) for the ride to the Grand Palace. The Marriott guys gave the kids some bread to feed the fish which they thoroughly enjoyed.
The palace was interesting and Nat did a great job of providing just enough info to keep us interested, but moving. We knew this was going to be the least interesting activity on our entire agenda for the kids and wanted to get it out of the way first. Cheryl and I are the types that like the highlights of tourist sites, but not much more. Did I mention it was hot? My convertible pants served as a nice oven – I can’t believe some actually think pants are cooler than shorts. Balderdash in this southern boy’s opinion.
We made the short trip over to Wat Pho. We all found this mesmerizing and much more interesting than the Palace. The kids enjoyed doing the coin in the bucket deal, too.

We had lunch at a English brew pub on the backpacker street - family enjoyed theirs and I had a decent Thai meal. Last stop was the weekend market. By this point we were beyond hot, tired and ready for the pool. We ventured around a bit, but did not buy a thing. I think we were all in a hot, jetlag induced coma.

Nice swim in the lovely Marriott pool that evening.

Weather was hot and not a drop of rain.

Bangkok - June 8
Tong picked us up at the hotel in the am for a trip to Tiger Temple and an orphanage. I asked Tong if shorts were ok and she looked at me as if I were stupid – “of course.” Boy, did that make a huge difference to me for the rest of the trip. Apologies in arrears to anyone I offended with the shorts (the people still kept smiling though!).
Tong called the orphanage along the way for a list of items they needed. She said we could pick some off the list and go shopping – naturally, we bought everything on the list we could find at the Tesco. I won’t go into details about the TT since there are so many other reports on it. The one “highlight” was my 6-yr old son getting bit by a tiger! Ok, so it was one of the babies you pay extra to play with, but he’s got something to claim that not many others can. The bite left some bruises on his leg in the shape of a smiley face, but otherwise my son was fine (he would not go near the tigers afterward and it even took him a while to touch a deer). To take his mind off the incident, Tong took him to see Bam Bam, her beloved moon bear. I wasn’t quite prepared for her to feed Bam Bam a milk tablet with her mouth! I think I was so shocked (and disgusted!) that I missed getting a picture or video. She told me afterwards that a certain attorney from Boston had done the same thing – wonder who that could be???

Lots of pics and video with the tigers and other animals. I agree with another poster in their trip report that I can’t imagine going to TT with anyone other than Tong. She’s clearly in her element there and the other animals seem to love her. My kids liked feeding the deer, goat and the other Thong (seems like months ago – was that thing a buffalo???). It was an interesting trip – not one we’re likely to do again, but it was a nice one-time experience. Definitely resulted in some nice pics and video.

We had lunch at the spot up the road from TT – I can’t remember what we had, but it was tame Thai. Not bad – don’t think the kids ate much. We brought a jar of peanut butter and some bread for most stops - lifesaver.

Tong pre-ordered cake the day before for the orphanage and the rest of my clan served it while I took video and pics. It was a fun couple of hours and all of the kids seemed really happy (even before the cake) and well cared for. Aside from the supplies we delivered, we bought some things the kids make and made a small donation. It was a nice visit.

Long drive back to the hotel.

Weather was hot and not a drop of rain.

Bangkok - June 9
Railroad market, Floating Market, Fishing Village
One of our favorite things about Thailand was visiting the markets. In hindsight, I could have gotten much more interesting photo/video of the railroad market had I known what to expect when the train arrived. The people here (and everywhere in Thailand, really) doted over my kids, esp my son who has blonde hair.

We loved the floating market – probably would have hated it without Tong’s expertise. Unfortunately, the barbecue chicken lady was not there, but we tried all the other items everyone talks about. I loved the coconut pancakes while Cheryl really enjoyed the coffee in a bag (until she somehow punched a hole in the bag and it went everywhere). We both liked the noodles a lot. We also enjoyed going off the beaten path a bit to see how people really live in that area.

My kids loved the fishing village trip, feeding the monkeys being the obvious highlight. I could have done with a bit fewer monkey stops, but Cheryl says that’s just me being a grumpy boy. Part of my crappy attitude probably resulted from a real soaking I got at the front of the boat during a 30-minute storm (1st rain of our trip).

I enjoyed the oyster and mollusk farm visit – never seen that before. I particularly liked our stop to watch some fisherman dismantle their catfish net and haul up their catch. I can’t imagine doing that every day of my life. As with every stop, the fishermen welcomed us with smiles in spite of being neck-deep in the river and working their tails off.

We had told Tong we’d pass on the lunch since we don’t eat seafood.

Drive back to the hotel was uneventful.

Weather was hot and no rain outside of the soaking I got on the boat.

Bangkok - June 10
Tong met us early in the am so we could make merit. It was an interesting experience, although Cheryl was not too keen about bowing and receiving a blessing from a monk. Outside the temple, my daughter bought a $2 purse and my son picked up a similarly priced Transformer watch – the latter kept him occupied for hours on end on the trip. Who needs monks, tigers and boats when you can have a Transformer watch???

We decided our next stop was the flower market. Tong asked if we wanted a cab or tuk tuk. We’d not done the latter so we went that route thinking it would be a nice one-time experience. How wrong we were! The kids absolutely loved it and Tong did nothing from discouraging them – even Cheryl and I found it to be fun. Or maybe it was Tong screaming like a kid and having the driver do wheelies. Regardless, it became the first of many tuk tuk rides in Thailand.

We loved the flower market – I’d like to go at night sometime. So many colors and smells – quite unlike anything I’ve experienced elsewhere in the world.
Somewhere in the previous day, Tong had told us about the Buddhist belief about releasing fish as a way of saving someone’s life. My kids really latched onto that so our stop after the flower market was to another market closer to the river where we purchased a lot of fish (pregnant, of course, to maximize the lives saved), eel and frogs. We then took these to the river (where fishing is illegal) and released them. The kids loved it.

The place we released the fish/frogs was at the pier where you catch the boat for the canal tour. I was iffy about doing this, but ended up really enjoying it. The kids loved feeding the fish again, I got wet again and we all got to see some back canals off the beaten path. This was definitely one of those simple, yet interesting, experiences that makes Tong such a great guide.

Lunch was at Coconut Palm. I know a lot of you love this place, but we thought it was just ok. I liked everything I had at the Floating Mkt much better. I believe I had Pad Thai here and Cheryl had cashew chicken. Tong ordered us a bunch of other things – seems like the Vietnamese spring rolls were good.

Now it was time for shopping. Took tuk tuks all over the place, including Khao San Rd (wife loved the clothes, purses, etc. at Lofty Bamboo – they are all hand made by villages with money flowing properly back to them - a nice cause. Tong was wearing some pants from the place which is what led us there. Cheryl also bought a lot of jewelry from several stores in the same building as Tong’s office. From there, she took us to a market in Chinatown so I could explore the watches and we could locate some dvds. Made several purchases here. Also saw things we had not seen elsewhere (and did not see again later), like guns, knives, etc. Last stop was MBK. I think we could have spent hours in here, but time was running short due to my appointment to meet Jack at Monet Il Sarto to pick up my shirts (Bob – I did tell him hello for you).
We sadly said our goodbyes to Tong. We’re convinced she could make eating dirt fun. My kids absolutely love her.

Concluding thoughts about Bangkok:
• Once you get past the traffic and heat, Bangkok is a fascinating city. Tong helped us do just that and I would highly recommend using her for a day to get your bearings (not the tourist sites, per se, but the other things we did). I’d be willing to bet a lot of money we would have fallen into the “hate Bangkok” camp if we had tried to explore the city by ourselves. She took care of the hassles so we could focus on the fun aspects of the city. She explained things we would have never known on our own, took us to places we would have never found and, in general, just made normally boring things fun. She also taught us the ropes for how to get around – something that really helped us later in Chiang Mai.

• We would have liked several more days in Bangkok to do things like visit Chinatown, go to Siam Niramit, more shopping, river cruise, being lazy at the hotel, etc. We spent 5 nights in Bangkok and it was not enough for us.

• We fall into the “love the Bangkok Marriott” camp; the staff is extremely friendly without being intrusive, the pool is very nice and we liked having the little mall and its restaurants and mini-mart right next door. We spent most of the time outside of Bangkok proper so the supposed inconvenient location was irrelevant to us. One note about the hotel, we could only get wireless to work on our balcony (we were in the middle of the main building, 5th floor).

• None of the hotels on this trip had any carpet. Sounds silly, but really cramped my ability to do any workouts in the room (if you’re a P90X type of person).

• I’m somewhat ashamed to admit we looked at the menu for Benihana (that’s our style of Asian food back home ;)) at the Marriott. It was the only time I got sticker shock on the entire trip. I think we ended up at the Pizza Company again that night 

• We were prepared for rain, but only had the one brief storm on the Fishing Village trip. I guess the rain gods were paying us back for our Australia trip where it rained non-stop with record flooding in their “dry season.”

Next up - Phuket

  • Report Abuse

    I'm so glad you enjoyed Bangkok!

    The shorts thing is an issue at wats. Also, around town at good restaurants and such you might be turned away. You time outside of Bangkok, the shorts are perfectly fine. BTW, I find those convertible pants intolerable - the synthetic fabric hold in the heat.

    Bob always says the Marriott Resort is the best place in Bangkok for families with kids. For what you did, it was just right.

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    Kathie - you are exactly right about the shorts. The impression you (or I least Cheryl and I) get on here, however, is you're committing a major faux pas by wearing them anywhere - Tong got a good laugh when I asked her about it. I felt even better when Sgt Kai showed up in shorts on our first day with him. I'm not interested in offending, but my sanity was on the line.

    With kids, we don't go to places that have dress codes! :)

  • Report Abuse

    Great start, statefan.

    I'm curious about the Lofty Bamboo shop, and have made a note to myself to try to find the place next month when I'm in Bangkok. I love buying handmade goods. Anymore details you could provide about what was available there would be most helpful. I like purses and jewelry, in particular.

    Looking forward to more of your report.

    To another BKK lover!

    Carol

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    Carol - the address for Lofty Bamboo is 1st Floor Buddy Hotel, 265 Khaosan Rd.

    I don't remember the hotel b/c the shop looked like just another store on the street. I do seem to recall it is right before you get to the place where Tong's office is.

    I believe they have a website, loftybamboo.com, but it does not show the really unique and colorful pants Tong has. My wife would have bought every pair they had if they had bigger adult sizes and kids sizes.

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    Thanks for the great start on your report. I agree with you. I thought the Coconut Palm was just alright. But I did love the noodles at the Floating Market. Sorry you don't eat seafood, the meal at the fishing village was quite wonderful.

    Looking forward to more of your report.

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    Phuket - June 11

    In preparing for the trip, I was really enamored with the John Gray “Starlight by Hong” tour in Phuket. It’s the wet season in Phuket so it did not make a lot of sense to go there, but I really could not get past missing on this tour since it might be our only trip to Thailand. It did not hurt that the JW Marriott sounded great and we could stay there for free.

    We had an early afternoon flight to Phuket – uneventful. Tong arranged for a van to pick us and our 11 bags (yes, our count grew) up for transfer to the JW Marriott with no problem.

    After checkin, we got settled, did some laundry (we had booked one of the 2-bedroom Beach Club condos using Marriott points) and checked out the resort. We had planned on swimming, but the pools close at 7pm!?!

    When it came time for the kids to go to bed, my 9-yr old daughter suddenly realized her precious pink baby was missing. We concluded she must have left it on the bed in their room at the Marriott. Normally, we would have said “oh well,” but this little $5 stuffed doll was what we gave her at birth. I called the Marriott and they promised to search. I called back a few hours later – nothing. So, what’s a person to do when they need help in Bangkok? Get Tong! Cheryl sent Tong an email explaining the situation. Tong contacted the hotel and spoke to the GM. I have no idea what else transpired, but we awoke to an email from Tong indicating they found the doll in the laundry! Long story short(er), Tong picked up the baby and mailed it to our next hotel in Chiang Mai. Keep in mind we had already paid her, she lives 1.5 hours away from the hotel and is beyond busy with her work. So, this was simply her doing something to make a very sad little girl she just met very happy. I still can't believe Tong did it without hesitation - just shows you what kind of person she is.

    Weather was sunny with no rain – go figure.

    Phuket - June 12
    The kids participated in the Circus training program at the Marriott and loved it. We have some great video and pics – highly recommend it.

    John Gray’s company picked us up in the afternoon for the Starlight by Hong tour. I think this excursion was a classic case of expectations being too high. We had fun on the trip, but it’s not something worth planning your trip around. It was also expensive. The crew spoke limited English, but smiled a lot. The food was pretty good, but not too many options for kids. I would imagine tours with John Gray himself are infinitely more interesting. I don’t want to sound too negative, because we still had a lot of fun. One note – they said we would be back by 9pm or so – it ended up being closer to 10:30p which was very late for our kids.

    Weather was partly sunny with no rain – go figure.

    Phuket - June 13
    The kids pool (right half of the main pool) at the JW Marriott is really nice so we decided to spend the day there. It was a nice, relaxing day.

    After feeding the kids peanut butter, crackers and other stuff we brought along, we dropped the kids off at the Kids Club and had a nice dinner at the Italian restaurant.
    We spent the evening packing for the trip to Chiang Mai and finished up laundry.

    Weather was sunny with no rain – go figure.


    Concluding thoughts about Phuket:

    • I had big expectations for the JW Marriott, especially after having such a good time at the BKK Marriott. Unfortunately, the staff was largely indifferent and I don’t think we got a single smile (after declining the timeshare presentation ;) ). They were not rude, but more like hotel staff you get in the US. We definitely missed the smiles and greetings from the BKK group. Not a huge deal, but definitely disappointing.

    • We booked one of the 2-bedroom condos using Marriott points – it’s a little bit out of the way (no big deal) and the condo was nice and spacious. The beds, however, were beyond uncomfortable and the deck had no view. Note to families - they do not have connecting rooms in the hotel section.

    • On the last day, we decided to walk to the other side of the resort – it was then we discovered ladies near the beach doing massages for ~$15 (maybe a bit less). Wish we had been told about that before! Grrrr….

    • A couple of the restaurants at the resort were closed – the Café and one other.

    • Closing all of the pools at 7pm (maybe it was 6p?) every night is just unacceptable, imo, esp. when you’re somewhat trapped at the resort if you don’t have a car. What exactly do they expect kids to do in the evening? Or adults looking for a quick night swim?

    • The ocean was very rough, but we knew to expect it – that is what made the pool closing time even stranger.

    • In hindsight, 1-2 more days here for R&R and the kid’s club would have been better. Probably would not have felt that way if it had rained most afternoons as we expected.

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    Thanks for the report! We are taking our 2 boys, 6 & 8 to Tokyo/Bali this August. We've been before without the kids, but it's been many years. I'm anxious to hear about your Bali time, especially what the kids liked there.

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    "First night in Thailand and where do we eat? The Pizza Company! It was actually really good. Yes, we’re pitiful."

    That's a great line Statefan. We felt the same way last year eating at Pizza Hut in Beijing. Pitiful, but full.

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    Chiang Mai - June 14

    Travel day from Phuket to Chiang Mai via BKK

    Baan Orapin send a driver to pick us up at no charge – nice!

    Checked into Baan Orapin in the late afternoon with Pepsi – what a nice man; our room for these 2 nights was a Jr. Suite and connecting room in the front building. The rooms in this building are older, but charming. Mini-bar is dirt cheap.
    One of the advantages of Baan Orapin is the fact that it is on the same street as the riverside restaurants. We ended up having dinner at Riverside which was fine, then took the footbridge across the river, walked past the flower market then up towards the Sunday market.

    We loved the Sunday market (inside the old city). It had lots of clothes and handicrafts we had not seen elsewhere. They had one stage set up at the end of a street where the students of a dance school performed – we watched them for a good bit. There were lots of street performers, too. We had ice cream for 10B each and saw lots of other food that looked really good. If we ever go again, we’re going to have dinner within the market. Cheryl bought several things, but what they were escapes me.

    Weather was partly sunny.


    Chiang Mai - June 15
    Sergeant Kai picked us up in the morning for a trip to Doi Inthanon and some light hiking. He is an interesting man – very polite with great English. I enjoyed talking to him about Thai politics, his previous life as a horse trainer in the Thai Army and other things. He shared with me that the driver/guiding business in Chiang Mai is really tough these days and many are having to consider bankruptcy. Apparently things are much worse than they have ever been in his decade in the business (incl. SARS, bird flu and other well documented events). So, if you’re going to Chiang Mai, line up a guide as they are reasonably priced and you’ll learn so much more than without one!

    We stopped at the Vachiratharn waterfall on the way up the mountain – nice. Spent a fair amount of time at the queen’s chedi at the top of the mountain. Got a nice picture of the kids on the little bridge in the garden behind the Queen’s chedi. Really enjoyed the nice cool weather up there, too.

    On the way down, we stopped at 2 different Karen villages. The first one had recently gotten electricity and was a bit touristy. The second village seemed more “real.” We were able to talk to an older husband/wife in their “house” which was extremely interesting to everyone in our family. I’m not sure how any of them live past the age of 20 with the fireplace inside the house and no ventilation. I could go on and on about this part of the trip, but let’s leave it as highly educational and interesting.

    We had our cheapest lunch in Thailand at the bottom of Doi Inthanon – 110B for 3 meals and 5 drinks. It was good, too. Incredible!

    During lunch we got a lengthy heavy thunderstorm so we decided to skip the hiking to another waterfall. Instead, Sgt. Kai recommended taking the scenic roads thru Lamphun so we could see different people and villages. As we got closer to Lamphun, he suddenly pulled the car into an elementary school. The timing was perfect as the kids had just finished for the day and were out front playing. Sgt Kai spoke to the school's principal to explain who we were (he had never been there either). Kids on both sides of the language barrier were fascinated with each other. This was a very poor area, but you’d never know it by the kids – tons of laughs and smiles. The students were anxious to show the strange white people (apparently they had never met anyone with white skin before) their English skills so the sang the ABC song and counted to 10 in unison. My wife then had them sing the Thai national anthem - all priceless video moments. An impromptu game of soccer broke out and the boys did their best to get my son to play – he finally did after a bit.

    The most interesting and fun aspect (to me, anyway) of this stop was watching Sgt. Kai interact with the kids. You can tell he has a real soft spot for children. When we were leaving, the kids kept talking to him in Thai. When I asked him later what they said, he told me they were asking him to “take them to the sea.” “Uncle, we’ve never seen the sea before. Please come back and take us to the sea.” If there had not been so many of them, we would have paid for an overnight trip, but 30+ students plus teachers made that impossible. Fwiw, apparently Thais often call elder males “uncle." If anyone ever uses Sgt Kai again, have him take you to the school near Lamphun that he took the Evans’ clan to – highly memorable, at least for us. I'm sure the kids there enjoyed it to - they sure seemed to anyway. Next time we're going to bring them something.

    Upon dropoff at Baan Orapin, we walked to the Italian place that everyone recommends (ok), then went to the Night Market (ehh).


    Thai Elephant Conservation Center - June 16 thru 18

    We left most of our luggage at Baan Orapin and took a taxi to the Thai Elephant Conservation Center for our 3-day mahout course. This course is the activity that sold me on going to Thailand. We visited South Africa last year and the elephants were a big hit with everyone except my wife (long story involving mock charges). Both my kids have unusually strong interests in animals so we thought TECC sounded like a perfect adventure. Ok, everyone but Cheryl thought it sounded like a perfect adventure. I think she would have signed up for a root canal instead had the opportunity prestented itself.

    I won’t bore everyone with the details of the 3 days here, but will share some random thoughts:

    • The schedule was basically the same every day. I think earlier visitors like KimJapan had a lot more variety than we did. It wasn’t bad, but had I known it we might have done the 2-day course instead of the 3-day.

    • They don’t mess around with getting you indoctrinated – we were on the elephants within 15 mins of arrival and participated in the morning show on the same day.

    • Riding is tough work if you have tight hips. I struggle with crossing my legs so riding JoJo (the biggest ellie in the mahout course) led to several sore days for me. Cheryl was sore as well. The kids were fine.

    • If you are worried about your younger kids doing it – don’t. My youngest had just turned 6 and he had no issues – his mahout did a great job taking care of him. All the visitors were amazed to watch our kids riding ellies bareback as if they had been doing it for years.

    • We have 3 complaints – 1) when you go to the forest in the evenings and return in the mornings, you have to ride on top of the chains they use for tying up the elephants– the chains were very uncomfortable to the adults in our group. I’d recommend bringing a big towel or something soft for those particular trips. 2) the beds were beyond uncomfortable. You’re sleeping on a wood bed with a mattress that is a half inch thick and marginally softer than the wood. I don’t think any of the adults in our class slept much the first night. The second night was a bit better after we doubled up the mattress or used the blankets as add’l padding. 3) In hindsight, the course is really expensive given the level of accommodations. We had no problems with roughing it a bit, but there is no excuse for the mattress based on the price they are charging for the course. I was a bit disappointed they did not throw in a t-shirt, too, at least for the kids.

    • Bring flashlights – storms knocked out the power for extended periods of time on 2 days.

    • It poured rain on both trips to the forest in the afternoon. We got soaked to the bone.

    • They provide clean mahout suits after each session. There is no need to bring more than 1-2 changes of clothes to wear during the evening and on the way home. Our underwear turned blue the 1st day so I went “commando” (is that TMI?) thereafter with no issues.

    • There is nothing like riding and working with the elephants. It’s definitely provided memories we will never forget. The elephants are so intelligent and gentle you completely forget about any fear of their size. Cheryl was ready to strangle me after the 1st hour of the course, but as she got comfortable with the elephant she even admitted to enjoying the experience.

    • The mahouts did a great job taking pics and video with our equipment.

    • The food was fine – the kids lived off peanut butter though

    • Although you'd never know it by my poor grammar in this report, I'm usually the studious type. There is no way, however, I'm going to study something on my vacation. So, don't stress about learning the mahout commands. If you forget something, the real mahout will cover you. I'm sort of convinced the elephants only listen to the real mahouts anyway.


    Chiang Mai - June 18

    Sgt Kai picked us up at TECC for another half day touring the area. Along the way back we stopped at a local roadside market and saw several things we had never seen at the other markets – mostly insects.

    We had a Thai lunch somewhere (how's that for being specific, lol) along the way on the way to Chuanlhong Ceramic in Lamphun. We enjoyed watching them make the ceramics – the detailed work is incredible. Cheryl found 2 mid-sized items to buy, but the shop only has arrangements with container companies so the shipping cost to NC was going to be 4x the cost of the goods. We wrote done the item #s and I’ve promised to look into other options once I get back into the groove at work. The owner is a really nice guy that studied in Australia. His English is excellent. Anthropologie is one of their big customers, but most of their pieces are originals.

    We drove through the wood carving village, but did not stop. I think we were too tired after 3 days of elephants.
    Next up was a visit to Doi Suthep – the views are incredible. Apparently you can often see sun, rain and rainbows in the afternoons here, but it was not in the cards for us. Just sun (not complaining). Mighty glad we took the elevator thing to the top given I was walking a bit funny after the elephants. We did take the steps down - I took them walking sideways. The hawkers at the bottom are quite annoying…

    Checked back into Baan Orapin. This time they had us in the newer building right next to the pool. The rooms were much more current, but that’s not to say there was anything wrong with the rooms in the 1st building. After saying our goodbyes to Sgt Kai at Baan Orapin, we decided something other than Thai was in the cards for dinner. At one point earlier in the week we had passed Mike’s Hamburgers & Hot Dogs so we decided to give that a go – eh.
    Weather was partly cloudy.


    Chiang Mai – June 19

    For our last day in Chiang Mai we had planned to do Flight of the Gibbon. We were still worn out and sore from the elephants so we ended up giving it a pass. My daughter said she wasn’t interested, but it turns out she misunderstood what ziplining is. In hindsight, I wish we had gone…
    Instead, we were lazy and slept in. We took a tuk tuk to the indoor mall and spent a couple of hours there. Ate lunch at, gasp, Pizza Hut. Cheryl made a Starbucks run. Took a tuk tuk to a jewelry store recommended in the Rough Guide (way overpriced and not that interesting). Went back to Baan Orapin for a swim where we met some American families.
    Dinner was at the Aussie place that is famous for ribs (Dean’s? Gus’s? some guy’s first name – place was outside the Night Market and near McDonald’s). Cheryl enjoyed hers and mine was acceptable. Not a cheap place though.
    Strolled around the Night Market and bought a few things – Cheryl loves the various flip flops they sell in Chiang Mai. I think she must have bought a dozen pair.

    Went back to pack for the trip to Bali.

    Weather was partly cloudy.

    Concluding thoughts about Chiang Mai:

    • We really enjoyed it here – the city is very easy to get around on your own, esp. after the chaos of Bangkok

    • Would have liked more time to visit the craft villages

    • Loved, loved, loved Baan Orapin – we liked its location at the river a lot; there is no doubt where we will stay when we come back

    • Wish we had done Flight of the Gibbon

    • Next trip both kids will be old enough for a bamboo raft trip

    • Definitely make a visit to an authentic hilltribe village

    • Try to arrange your schedule so you can go to the Sunday Market


    Concluding thoughts about Thailand overall:
    • LOVED IT

    • The country has an almost perfect combination of culture, fun activities and good shopping to make everyone in the family happy.

    • One other huge factor in the appeal to us was the people – everyone is so friendly; we could not get over how the guides would interact with people we ran across – it was like everyone knew each other

    • Who could not like a place where everyone smiles so much??? The wai is the icing on the cake. It took us a while to get used to that, probably post-Bangkok, but it’s fun

    • Next visit will be slower paced with more exploration, more pool time, more massages, more shopping and less sightseeing.

    • I’m ready to book our Jan vacation for Thailand right now, but Cheryl wants to go somewhere we’ve not been yet. She enjoyed Thailand quite a bit though.

    • We were incredibly fortunate with the weather and never got rain while we were "out and about."
    Next up – 9 nights in Bali

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    You had some great experiences Statefan. The good news is that there are still plenty more to be had. Start working on Cheryl, I'm sure she'll come around. Thailand keeps getting better. Try and combine it with Vietnam or Cambodia next time if she wants some variety.

    I'll be interested to hear how you think it compared to Bali. I can remember being quite dissapointed on my one Bali trip, probably because it just wasn't Thailand!

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    I'll work on Bali tomorrow. We felt the exact same way as you, shanek. There really is no comparison in our opinion.

    For the record, we did eat a lot more Thai food than it would appear in reading my lame account!

    I'm still waiting on confirmation that a panda actually fed Bam Bam with his mouth...

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    Wonderful report. Your narrative puts us right with you and your family in the midst of the action. Your ability to roll with the punches served you well. Tong and Sergeant Kai are gems. Glad you liked them.

    On the Bam Bam feeding by mouth, Tong was horrified when I first did it. Glad to see she's come around to the Cambridge method. Probably not recommended for the faint of heart.

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    shorts....my feeling about shorts in thailand is that they belong around the pool or hotel and at the beach and resort locations....

    i find long pants protect me against the sun and river waters and mud found around town...

    i would feel odd going into a nice restaurant or hotel for lunch in shorts, and they definately are not appropriate for wats and anything royal....people wear them but i would fee odd in them....

    and yes tong is the best...

    food: do you not like thai food? some is not spicy... and btw you are not alone....

    glad the trip was good and i knew the kids would love the marriott

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    I completely understand no shorts in wats / nice restaurants and would feel socially uncomfortable in them in either scenario (as I would in the US). My crew all dressed appropriately in the few wats we actually entered. Nice restaurants are not in our vocabulary so that was never an issue. Coconut Palm was the nicest restaurant we ate in the entire trip.

    We like the Thai basics just fine, but can only eat so much rice in 3 weeks. No seafood inhibited our menu options, too.

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    i'm also so glad you feel 5 days in bkk is not enough...but of course 2 of your days were outside bkk...
    i think you might want to look at hua hin for jan... the hyatt there is even better than the marriott in some ways...

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    Thanks for the nice trip report Statefan. It's nice you took your kids to a place that will broaden their horizons for the rest of your life, and broadened your own too. Try a little well-prepared fresh fish sometime (you may have been raised on bad frozen stuff, and thus the aversion)and you may become a convert.
    Agreed that shorts are no problem most places these days. But as an American wary of how we present ourselves overseas, I find rhkkmk's postion refreshing. I have always hated them on men AND women, despite the fact that they are now universally accepted. To me, they show disrespect and a lack of modesty in the name of personal comfort. Plus they are just plain unflattering and unstylish on almost everyone. Unfotunately, traveling Westerners and pop culture have made them cool worldwide.
    I'm forever asking my husband to wear long pants when we're abroad. He always argues we won't be going to anyplace with a dress code. But travel is serendipitous, and we inevitably wind up coming across a nice looking restaurant or boite or other attraction that we don't go into because of how he's dressed. In India, he put on long pants and a decent shirt for dinner at an upscale Mumbai restaurant. Most of the new-rich yuppie Indians and their families were wearing shorts, or jeans and T-shirts. Now everyone looks like everyone else.
    I do understand the swelter and the kids. And I'm not actually the Old Fart I sound like!

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    Different strokes for different folks, I guess. I don't quite understand what's wrong with shorts in non-formal places, but that's probably because I know my Creator put me on this planet without a single stitch of clothes on! ;)

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    So sorry for the delay. I've committed a major Fodors faux pas and started planning my next trip without finishing my trip report. What's the penalty?

    I did make some progress on a plane ride to the West coast this week. I've not proofread it and am sure it's going to be more stream of conscious than anything organized. Here goes (I will do my best to finish this weekend):

    Getting to Bali – June 20

    The great thing about frequent flier miles is the free trips. The downside, however, is the quirky routings you sometimes have to take to get somewhere. First, there was no way to get from Chiang Mai through Bangkok to Denpasar without having to overnight in Bangkok. I did not want to give up a night Chiang Mai, however, so we moved to plan B. Plan B involved an all day adventure from Chiang Mai to Bangkok to Singapore to Denpasar. I believe our first flight departed ~9am and we landed in Bali at 9pm. Add in an hour to get to Ubud and you’ve had a long day.

    We added Bali to our itinerary because it seemed like a safe bet in case we hated Thailand. I intentionally put Bali at the end of the trip for just that reason – if Thailand was a bust, at least we would end up on a high note with Bali.
    We’re fortunate in that both of our mothers have places on the NC coast so visits to the beach are never high on our vacation priority list. We decided that we wanted to pick on place to base ourselves for the entire stayi since we had done a fair amount of moving around in Thailand (not so easy with little kids). We liked the sound of Ubud and picked that as our focal point since it appeared we could still get anywhere we wanted to go via day trips. We settled on 9 days, partially because of FF award availability and partially because we wanted to make sure we had enough time to pace ourselves. This was the first real mistake I made in our agenda. I’ll get to that later.

    We had planned to stay in the suites at Alam Jiwa and Alam Indah, sister properties to the popular Alam Shanti. The more we thought about it, however, the less we liked the idea of staying outside of town and having to rely on a walk through Monkey Forest or using the hotel shuttle service. So, we ended up booking with Kajane Mua. This was the 2nd big mistake I made. I’ll also get to that later, but rest assured there is nothing wrong with Kajane Mua as a property.
    Anyway, a Kajane Mua representative picked us up at the airport for the hour ride to Ubud. It was late so the kids crashed in the car while I tried to keep some sort of conversation going with our driver. He was friendly, but a bit difficult to understand at times. It was Saturday night and a senior Gov’t official was in town so traffic was heavy all the way through Sanur with lots of visible police presence. I admit to start wondering what I had gotten us into, but that ended up being the only time we saw so many law enforcement officials.

    By the time we got to Kajane Mua it was close to 11:30p. We were tired and ready to hit the sack, but our host insisted on bringing us tea and going over every single detail in our villa, Loji Gagga. By the time everyone left (porters, folks bringing the tea, host), it was well after midnight.

    Before I get into the trip, I should offer our opinion on Kajane Mua. Loji Gagga is way at the back of the property so there are lots of stairs to navigate. I’m in above average physical condition and even I started to get worn out by the stairs after the 3rd day. Towards the end of our stay, they started dropping us off at the back entrance at night which was MUCH better. I guess someone must have heard me whining about the steps!

    The first surprise about our villa was the layout. This is really my fault, but I was under the impression the “lounge area” you see in the pictures was actually inside. It’s really outside so the only air conditioned spaces are the bedrooms and bathrooms. This was a problem in terms of seating (only one chair in the bedroom). The free wireless Internet access only seemed to work outside as well. So, if you wanted to sit and chat and/or get on the Internet, you had to do it outside, albeit in some shade. Also, if you have them make the downstairs bed into a double, there is no headboard so there is nothing to rest against if you want to sit up in bed.

    You get upstairs via the stairs outside and the upstairs has its own key – this was the 2nd surprise. So, instead of getting a “villa”, we really got 2 large, not connected, hotel rooms and a private pool. I ran upstairs the 1st morning expecting to have a gorgeous view from the balcony, only to be greeted with a view of nothing. While the rooms are tastefully decorated and the bathroom is huge, we were completely underwhelmed with the entire experience given the price we paid.

    Negatives aside, the private pool was great. We could hear the folks in the villa next door when they were using their pool, but that was the only time. The villa is very private visually so you could run around buck naked all day and I doubt anyone would be the wiser. Not that we would ever do that, but some of you Fodorites never cease to surprise me.
    Everything you read about the staff is true. They are all very friendly and speak to you when you walk by. Nothing is too much trouble for them. To be honest, the folks at the front desk were almost too nice for our liking. We enjoy smiles and warm greetings (see our comments on BKK Marriott), but don’t really want to have to have a lengthy conversation about what we are doing / have done every time we pass by someone. It got to the point where we started speed walking past them to avoid getting trapped. I’m sure that makes us sound snooty, but you have to stay there to understand.
    One other comment about the staff – about halfway through our stay, Cheryl and I both concluded they would say yes to just about anything we asked just because they wanted to please us. Or, they did not understand what we were saying and just agreed to be polite. I think it was a combination of the 2. In any event, we made some less than stellar choices restaurant and activity-wise as a result.

    Ok, now on the actual trip…

    Ubud - June 21

    I made prior arrangements with the famous Putu for our first 4 days. He met us at the hotel around 9am and we decided to keep the day focused on the Ubud area. I had really put all my attention on the Thailand part of the trip so we were not as prepared with ideas for Bali as we normally are.

    There was supposed to be a children’s performance at one of the museums in the mid-morning so we decided to visit Pura Campuhan down by the 2 rivers. We also walked down to the river and the kids had a good time with Putu there.
    When we went to the museum we found out the children were not coming because of a ceremony in their village – we decided to visit the museum anyway. Definitely not our thing and, of course, the kids were bored.

    Putu offered to take us to his village and we gratefully accepted. We really enjoyed this and it was great to meet his family. All were extremely nice and doted on our kids while we learned about life in a Bali village. Putu’s mom seems like a super lady and it was interesting to watch her prepare items for an upcoming ceremony.

    For lunch, Putu recommended (I am butchering this name) Leche Lekwa (it’s near Alam Jiwa) because they also had craft activities for the kids. The food was ok and the activities were fun. Lots of Japanese tourists were there and I got a kick out of watching them. I’m sure they felt the same way about us.

    We called it a day and went back to the hotel for a swim and massage. The massage was included in our rate and we asked to have it poolside so the kids could swim and have fun. I’ve never had a professional massage before so this was a new experience. The underwear they give you is, uh, small and I started to get really nervous when my masseuse was a male. Skimpy underwear and a guy giving me a massage definitely had me out of my comfort zone (you have to know me to truly appreciate this). But once things got going, I forgot about my concerns and enjoyed the massage.

    We went to our first dance performance tonight – the Kecak Dance. We all loved it. I still haven’t gotten that chant out of my head weeks later.

    Touring Bali – June 22

    Today was our wedding anniversary so we decided to buy one of Putu’s photo deals since we were way overdue for a family portrait. Basically, he brings his camera and takes photos (mostly posed) of the day’s activities.

    We decided to head north first to the Botanical Gardens near Lake Butan. Along the way we stopped at several good places for pictures, including the famous rice terraces.

    Just past the entrance to the Gardens is TreeTop Adventures. It’s a zipline meets obstacle course kind of deal with courses of varying degrees of height and difficulty. We spent a couple of hours here letting the kids do some of the easier courses. They both really enjoyed it, especially my daughter (she is 9 and made it through the middle difficulty courses with no problem). Highly recommend for school age kids and above.

    We made a quick photo stop within the gardens – picture with the lake and volcano in the background. Nice!
    The Gardens are very nice and make a great place for a relaxing day trip.

    We then headed down to Pura Ulun Danu, the famous temple on the water. Lots of photos here. You can take a boat or canoe ride, but we passed.

    We had lunch at a nearby tourist restaurant somewhere along the road towards Tanah Lot. Not great, but not bad either.
    Rather than visiting Tanah Lot for sunset, we agreed to visit another temple on the coast just a bit south of there. This was a beautiful location – black sand beach, lots of rocks, very few visitors and a gorgeous sunset. Lots of great pictures here, of course.

    Touring Bali – June 23

    This morning Putu took us north again to Mt Batur. We went down to Lake Batur to a floating restaurant that also had a man-made fishing pond. The kids really enjoyed fishing for a couple of hours, then we had lunch at the restaurant. We loved this restaurant – by far the best Indonesian food we had the entire trip.

    After lunch we took a short hike across the lava rocks – our son thought that was “awesome.”

    Next stop was the nearby hot springs. The kids enjoyed it, but the women and girls outside selling things were easily the most obnoxious we encountered anywhere on the trip. All things considered, I don’t really see the big deal about the hot springs, especially since we had a great pool at the hotel (side note I failed to mention – the pool is deep everywhere; my wife is 5 ft 6” and could not touch the bottom.
    Headed back to the hotel for dinner and another dance performance. I believe we this one was the Ramayana Ballet at the Palace. It was interesting - even my 6 yr old sun enjoyed it, esp. the monkey. When I need a laugh from the gang, all I have to do now is try to move my hands like those dancers and do the eye movement.

    Touring Bali – June 24

    The Bali Arts festival was going on in Denpasar so we decided to head there for the morning. Putu said it would be very local and not touristy and he was right. We walked around a while, did some shopping and then went to the performance. It had the same type of music as the typical dances, but the show was a comedy with a little bit of dancing. This was very interesting in that the entire thing was done in Indonesian so we had no clue as to what was being said. Apparently, the show was funny because there was a lot of laughter from the audience. It was very crowded so we were not able to sit near Putu and get a running commentary. We all had fun though just watching the crowd, especially all the kids.

    Lunch was at a nearby local restaurant.

    We did the tradecraft circuit on the way back - pottery, textiles, silver and wood. All interesting, but no purchases.

    In our limited research on Bali, I found Putu had taken another Fodorite to visit a mask maker. Apparently this guy is one of the original mask makers and I knew the kids would enjoy a stop. This fellow is quite a character! His masks are quite a bit more expensive than the masks you see in the markets and souvenir stores, but we liked the thought of supporting a local artisan instead of something mass produced. The kids got to pick one mask and I debated getting another for our home theater / family room, but decided against it.

    We went to another performance tonight – I believe it was at a museum (Agung?). The show was short and overpriced . The show itself was fine though.

    Next up are the last 4 days with Bali Dean (popular on TA)…

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    Fantastic report, really enjoying the details and style (I too think " The Pizza Company! It was actually really good. Yes, we’re pitiful" is a KILLER line, it really made me laugh.

    Am so glad you got to meet the lovely Tong and love Thailand (like most of us on this board) looking forward to the rest of the details.

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    Very informative and entertaining report! Can you post Putu's contact information, please? I'll try searching the board as well. How did his photos turn out?

    We had reserved a villa at Kajane Mua as well, but I switched it a few months ago to rent a home in Penestanen. We leave in a couple of weeks!! Yay!

    Looking forward to reading about the next 4 days!

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    There is a special penalty for beginning a report and taking an inordinate amount of time to complete it. However, you'll have to have a much larger delay to even approach the transgression of Ekscrunchy. Part of her penalty was being forced to have dinner with me and Bob. A penalty does not yet apply, but we're watching closely.

    Putu is a gem.

    We're staying at the KM in Ubud in May. We'll see whether the staff is capable of remaining nice to me. A true test of their hospitality.

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    Touring Bali – June 25

    With 9 days in Bali, there was no way I was putting all of our guide eggs in one basket. Putu received great feedback from Fodorites that for some strange reason I trusted even though I’d never met them. He was a good choice and 4 days was perfect.

    I ran across many positive references for Dean on TA so we decided to secure his services for the remaining 4 days of our trip.

    Dean met us at the Kajane Mua in the morning and we discussed what we wanted to do. The funny part was we had already hit most of the popular day trip spots so he had to get creative. We settled on a trip to Bali Bird & Reptile Park to start. I was a little taken aback by the admission price to the park, but it was still cheaper than it would have been at home. We spent a few hours here checking out all the shows and animals. Highlights included seeing Komodo dragons and petting huge iguanas. There were also several species of snakes we’d never seen, including some huge ones. We had a good time here, but we love animals. I can see how others might not think it is worth the cost.

    We have a quasi-home theater and it was killing me that I did not buy some masks for it (you know, the pair that are half white / half black with red lips). So, we spent 30 minutes trying to find the place since all I remembered was the town and what the building looked like. Fortunately, the mask maker was open and I got the masks! He actually signs the masks which I think is neat (sorry if I already mentioned that).

    Next stop was some time in the kite village. The kids each picked out a smaller one that we’ll use on our visits to the grandparents’ beach houses. They are really nice kites and are much easier to fly than the kind you get in the States. They also fold up nice, but are a squeeze for a 25” suitcase. We ended up putting them in a shopping bag and carrying them on the plane – no problems.

    We told Dean we would really like to see some type of ceremony or visit a village, if possible. We did not run across any ceremonies, but did spend about an hour in a village that was getting ready for their 5-yr funeral. This was fascinating to watch – the ladies preparing the offerings while the men worked on the “animals” to burn. The older ladies in this village were really charming and fascinated with our kids. Several of them wanted hugs and pictures and our kids were great about it. We got some great pictures as a result.

    We went to a show tonight with masks and a big dragon. I forget the name, but it was good. We saw some of the same band members and performers from the Palace in this performance.

    Touring Bali – June 26

    While we’re not too interested in visiting beaches, snorkeling is a trump card since we can’t do that at home. Our kids had never snorkeled before so we decided to give it a go. Dean took us to Blue Lagoon in the Pandang Bay (sp?) area. This was a small lagoon with a restaurant, bathroom, beach equipment and, of course, women trying to sell you junk. We spent more than half the day here. The water was a bit too rough for our youngest to snorkel, but he had a good time anyway. Our 9-year old enjoyed snorkeling with me. The restaurant was not bad and everything from equipment to beach chairs was cheap. There was a group of older ladies offering massages for ~$6 each so we decided what the heck and all 4 of us got one. I think Cheryl and I enjoyed watching the kids reactions to the massage more than our own. I ended up getting a lady old enough to be my grandmother and she was, uhhh, not shy about where her hands went. After they left, I told Cheryl I needed a cigarette. LOL.

    After the beach, we decided to drive through Candi Dasa and on to the Floating Palace. Nice drive, but nothing too exciting. We did get to see a farmer using the old way of plowing with cattle.

    For evening entertainment, we decided to visit the Puppet Show at Oka Kartini. This was one of those instances where I wish the Kajane Mua people would have spoken up. When we told them where we were thinking about going, they looked at each other for a second then smiled and said “ok.” You’d think a puppet show would be ideal for kids, right? Well, there were only 3 groups at the show (all with kids) and I think every one of us would have left if it would not have seemed rude. It was interesting to see the shadow puppets for about 5 mins, but then it got boring. It was too dark to read the description of the show and, as a result, the show was impossible to follow. They gave you a quick preview of the characters beforehand, but who the heck can remember that? Anyway, we don’t recommend this for kids.

    Touring Bali – June 27

    By this point, we were pretty bored with Bali. Yes, it’s a nice island and the culture is interesting, but, in our opinion, Hawaii is much prettier, just as interesting and a lot closer.

    We needed another “fun” day so we decided to head to the Waterbom in Kuta. We spent the entire day there and had a blast. Afterwards, we did a bit of shopping in the tourist trap streets, saw the 2 bombing locations and then rushed to beat the nighttime traffic.

    Lazy night and no show tonight.

    Touring Bali – June 28

    We decided to take it easy today and stick around Ubud. We slept in and then made our way to the market up the street. It’s a tourist trap place, but Cheryl found some skirts she liked for the women in our family. The kids blew some of their money on cheap toys here, too.

    The rest of the afternoon was spent at our private pool. Cheryl and I got poolside massages again, then she got a pedicure. The night was spent packing up for the trip home (with an overnight in London thanks to FF miles).

    Concluding thoughts about Bali overall:

    • It’s not Thailand! It’s not like we did not have a good time in Bali, but every night Cheryl and I both kept saying “it’s ok, but not like Thailand.” We decided a huge part of the difference is the people. Not that there is anything wrong with the Balinese people, it’s just that Thais are all so warm and friendly. We got used to their smiles and warm greetings whereas the Balinese are more like home.

    • It was definitely a mistake to spend the entire time in Ubud. This place was much too sleepy for our tastes. You could walk on the streets at 9:30pm and not see anyone except a taxi driver here or there. Is that normal or a sign of the economy? We can’t help but wonder if we should have stayed in Sanur or Kuta instead.

    • Balinese food is ok, but we grew tired of it quickly.

    • If it weren’t for the evening performances, Bali would have been a bust for us. We definitely wish we had taken those 9 nights and allocated them to more time in Thailand instead. Don’t get me wrong, Bali is a nice place – it’s just not THAT interesting or beautiful compared to Thailand or other places much closer to the States.

    • I don’t want to get into the differences between Putu and Dean on here, especially since we enjoyed both for different reasons. Feel free to send me an email if you have questions. I think each is a great fit for particular styles/interests. Both had the extreme disadvantage of having come after Tong who is simply incomparable in our opinion.

    Thanks for reading. We hope it helps someone with their trip! I'm sure I'll think of a dozen more thoughts/opinions now that I'm "done."

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    It looks like you were out touring every day on Bali. Is that right? I always do a balance of touring and relaxing (swim in the pool, a massage, a walk to nearby shops and restaurants). I would think all of that touring would be exhausting for all of you, especially the kids. It's important to have those "fun" days for everyone.

    Overall, it sounds like a great trip even though Bali suffered a bit in comparison to Thailand.

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    susncrg - you can send me an email at breevans at hotmail dot com

    Kathie - we fly halfway across the world to see and do things we can't do at home so that pretty much involves touring, shopping and swimming in the evenings. We never got tired on this trip (well, the Tiger Temple day was long). I can assure you the kids had plenty of fun - tigers, elephants, ziplining, fishing, seeing a volvano, swimming, water park - practically our entre agenda was built around things they would enjoy. Our kids thought the trip was on par with our South Afrian safari in 2008 which is really saying something.

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    Thanks for the remaining report. I'm glad to hear about the puppet show... sounds like we'll take a pass on that!

    It's interesting to hear your take on Bali vs. Thailand. We used to go to Bali, pre-kids, 12 years ago when we were living in Asia. We LOVED it! All our friends told us that we should check out Thailand since we liked Bali so much, so we did, in two different visits. But we were like you in reverse! We liked it, but we kept saying, "it's just not BALI!" We really connected with the Balinese family we always stayed with, so maybe that had something to do with it.

    Thanks again for finishing your report! I know it gets tough after you've been home a bit, but it's been a pleasure to read!

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    amarena - I hate to think what it would be like to live in a world where we all liked / disliked the same things. Talk about boring!

    Based on our trip, I don't think Bali and Thailand are at all similar so it's easy for me to understand why people would like one much more than the other.

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    Totally agree!

    We are already planning a trip to SA for August 2010, so you might hear from me later this year regarding that area with kids. I was worried that the kids would be too young, especially for the safari's -- they will be 7 and 9 next year -- but it sounds like yours loved it.

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    thanks for the great report....sorry bali did not measure up, but i think it is more adult orientated, so i was pleased that you did find things to do with the kids...

    glad putu worked out also....we will have him again for a couple of days on our trip next spring with the pandas...

    speaking of which, i have my fingers crossed about kajane...we have 6 nites there in Loji 2 bedroom....they will have to bring us at least one additional chair for the room... was there a bug problem, as in flying annoying bugs while sitting outside?? do they spray?
    i also am not looking at all forward to those stairs...
    we will make the best of it...but you are right for the price it should be better...
    in any case if its bad i will give gpanda a terrible time until he runs away...

    we also tired of the indonesian food....we often had western food in ubud. we found some excellent restaurants without having to pay the fare at ultra expensive places like mosaic..

    so do you have thailand booked again yet?? i can't wait for our 2 weeks there in november...

    i've got to reread you thai part....did you go to hua hin? i think not... put it on for next time and stay at the hyatt, the kids will be blown away with it...

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    amarena - I'd be happy to give you our thoughts about S. Africa. Drop me a line any time.

    rhkkmk - we did have a great time. It was a million fold better than we expected. I'd go back to Thailand tomorrow, but Cheryl wants to go somewhere we've not been yet. It'd be Galapagos if the kids were a bit older, but we're thinking hard about East Africa.

    We did not have many bug issues at Kajane. I forgot to mention in the report that you need to plan for plenty of time for breakfast. Sometimes it came earlier than we asked while other times it was later (+/- 20 minutes). Also, we had breakfast in the restaurant a couple of times and it took an hour each time...

    And don't forget to ask them to drop you off at the back of the property in the evenings. You might even be able to con them into picking you up there as well.

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    thanks....i will not have to con them, for me tips work---usually....and my big smile...

    thanks for the note about breakfast too..

    have you done istambul?? morocco? mauritius islands?

    egypt red sea areas...?

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